SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- The police chiefs of Scotch Plains and Fanwood issued a letter on Thursday reminding parents not to perpetuate rumors by reposting things they see on social media.
The controversy stems from feat that followed a picture posted by high school freshman who was dressed in black face in front of a Confederate flag. Following fear that spread among students and parents, a number of parents/guardians opted not to send their children to the high school on Monday, Nov. 11.
Scotch Plains police investigated the incident, and on Monday morning the school system received a letter from Dr. Joan Mast, superintendent of schools, to inform everyone that it is indeed safe to send students to school. There were no incidents at SPFHS this week related to the student in questions.
However, talk on social media group pages this week has centered on how the school district communicated the "alleged threats" (according to Dr. Mast).
Today, in a letter signed by both Ted Conley (Scotch Plains) and Richard Trigo (Fanwood), the local police chiefs advised that parents "need to be responsible role models for our children. They need to think about what they post on social media and how it may be interpreted by others."
November 13, 2019
To the members of the Scotch Plains and Fanwood Communities,
We are writing this letter, myself along with Chief Trigo of the Fanwood Police Department, to the members of the Scotch Plains and Fanwood communities. As I’m sure all of you are aware, we recently had a situation where a juvenile student of the SPFHS allowed a controversial picture to be taken of himself which was posted on social media. A third party saw the picture, and decided to repost it. From there it went viral.
However distasteful as this picture is, the individual in the picture is a juvenile, who thought that it was just his small group of friends that would see it. Once the picture was posted and went viral through various modes of social media, the threads that followed alleged that there was a “threat” to the school.
The juvenile in the picture never made any threats, never wanted the picture to get forwarded for everyone to see on social media, and even told our detectives that he understands that what he did was wrong and does not blame anyone for being upset with him as he knows what he did could be hurtful to others.
Many of the comments made were from adults.
This incident made it to the New Jersey State Police and the Office of Homeland Security, who called our department to let us know that they heard about the “threat.” All of this from a photograph, of a juvenile, who thought that he was in the company and privacy of his friends. Furthermore, we recognize that the content of the post contained hateful symbols, this is very serious and not tolerated in our communities. Reposting these symbols is perpetuating the hate!
We write this letter to hopefully get across the point that our parents need to be responsible role models for our children. They need to think about what they post on social media and how it may be interpreted by others. While we expect our juvenile community to make mistakes, we also expect them to learn from the adults in the community. If you do personally know of a threat to our communities, please let the police know first!
While we do our best to monitor social media, posting something is not the same as reporting it to the police. When people post hearsay, they can cause panic to the rest of the members of our communities. We will be working with the SPF BOE to present a seminar in the near future to discuss social media issues and how they can cause more harm than good. Please think before you post!
Chief Ted Conley, Scotch Plains Police Department, and Chief Rich Trigo, Fanwood Police Department
Chief Conley and Chief Trigo are discussing the subject matter for a seminar aimed at parents in conjunction with the school system and will be meeting with Dr. Mast on the content and the timing. They hope to have it done before Christmas break. The seminar would likely be held at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.
"If your kid sees or hears something that isn't right, call police. Social media is like the game of 'Telephone' in second grade, it takes off," Chief Trigo said. "We want people to contact us before posting on social media so that we can investigate whatever the incident might be (to determine if there is a real threat)."
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